Catching Monster Flatheads

News & Tips: Catching Monster Flatheads

Every fishermen dreams of catching a truly big fish, especially a once-in-a-lifetime monster that stirs the heart and the imagination. Long time flathead catfisherman Donnie Wolford, of Sikeston, Mo., has done just that.

FishingMonsterFlatheads blog
Ryan Swain (R) and his 87-pound flathead caught form a tributary of the Mississippi River using earthworms.

Monster-sized flathead catfish frequent big waters like reservoirs and major waterways. Wolford has fished the Mississippi and Ohio rivers most of his life and has learned much over the decades about catching big, flathead catfish. "Flatheads prefer live baits," Wolford said. "Too, they often hang around log jams and woody cover. They feed heavily at night."

Those four instructions can put any angler into flatheads. Fish big waters at night with live bait around woody cover. Those instructions help to eliminate a lot of water when scouting out possible flat head fishing grounds.

Wolford has caught dozens of big flatheads and he utilizes big tackle to get the job done. "I like to use droplines, which I tie off to a tree or overhanging limb," he stated. "My line is usually 330-pound test line rigged with a 10/0 hook. Big flatheads are powerful. Early in my career, I lost several big fish because my line was not heavy enough. Flatheads, once hooked, will twist, turn, roll and wallow, often rubbing the line on a tree limb or other object. The result can be a broken line and a lost fish. I now use very heavy line."

Many flathead hunters often use very large baits, such as carp in the 10-inch to 1-foot range. Others use small bluegill or goldfish. "i have used everything you can imagine, "Wolford said. "However, sometimes I just fish with worms. I have had had very god luck with worms."

Indeed he has. Wolford and his grandson, Ryan Swain, caught an 87-pound flathead from a tributary of the Mississippi River using earthworms bought from a tackle store. "We baited several limblines in a floodway ditch near New Madrid just before sundown. The ditch is not very deep, but is close to the Mississippi. It does have a few deep holes in it and that is where i concentrate my lines."

Wolford and a friend had caught a 55-pound flathead in the same location a few weeks earlier. He suspected there could be larger fish in the hole. Wolford and his grandson returned to their set just after daylight the net morning. "The first eight hooks I checked had all the bait removed," Wolford stated. "I noticed that the next line was not moving with the current, but was not hanging straight down either. I figured a fish had robbed the bait and tangled the hook and line in the brush."

"When the boat bumped the set line, it was like a scene from Jaws. That fish came straight out of the water and soaked me from head to foot. It took every ounce of strength I had to wrestle the biggest flathead I had ever seen into the boat."

Wolford thought he had a state record fish, but fell a few pounds short of the 99-pounder caught in the Missouri River in 2010. "That is OK," Wolford said. "I believe there are bigger flatheads in this region and we will keep fishing."